Through this experience my perception has changed, I think the goal of most all digital tools (besides making our lives easier) is connectivity. Working with junior high students, connectivity is very important to them as they are learning how to navigate various relationships and finding their own identities. I have realized connecting with people digitally is very important to me as well. By facilitating and partaking in conversations and tools tech enables, I truly believe we are better able to reach youth. Here, reach has two meanings. For one thing, a willingness to talk about digital media use, citizenship, and safety opens the doors for deeper and guided learning for our students. Secondly, when we reach our students we are interacting with them in an engaging way that promotes learning.
Through connection, creation and collaboration the goals and values of any campus, classroom, or lesson can only be strengthened. Utilizing tech in a meaningful way only increases buy-in from students, they are interested to learn and explore. Through their own exploration, they naturally collaborate and help one another. I have seen it happen. Digital use, social media, or tech does not in itself contradict the mission of most educational spaces. Guidance, through conversation and exploration, can solidify and strengthen the goals that our classrooms and schools hope for. The tagline for the junior high I work at is “Respectful, responsible, safe and engaged”, this goes for staff and students alike and these are the expectations I would argue everyone has for one another when it comes to digital use.
Digital literacy is something that must be developed and guided in order to obtain the best results. With students, if schools and educators do not jump into the roles of guide, who will? This is a major limitation that I see when it comes to digital use. We expect, our teens especially, to use all that the internet has to offer in the safest and most appropriate manners. How can they do that if no one has shown them? How can they know the depth and breadth of knowledge, support, and possibilities that exist if no one exposes that potential in a thoughtful and meaningful way? For many students, school may be the only place where they have access to tech resources. If we aren’t capitalizing o what all those resources can do, are we preparing out students to be adequate citizens of the 21st century? Personally, I don’t think so.
In the mediated role I play within a school, I have learned first hand that students are already and eagerly exploring our digital world. When I let go of my hesitancy to talk to students about my social media or app use when they asked me, I realized what meaningful conversations can come from an adult sharing digital experiences and approaches for digital identity and professionalism. Technology has provided us and our students with access and opportunities to more things than were ever possible before. And it is through these created capabilities of connectivity that we can develop students’ interests in creating and collaborating while simultaneously contributing and enriching our values.